By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On August 7, 2018, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) that the geographical spread of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence had shrunk considerably. He stated,
“… 90 districts in 11 States will now be covered by the (Security Related Expenditure, SRE) Scheme, down from 126… The revised categorization is a more realistic representation of the actual LWE scenario…”
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) reportedly undertook a “comprehensive exercise in consultation with the States to review the affected Districts in order to ensure that the deployment of resources is in sync with the changed ground reality.” As a result, 44 Districts were excluded and eight new Districts [Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad of Kerala; West Godavari of Andhra Pradesh; Kabirdham of Chhattisgarh; Mandla of Madhya Pradesh; and Angul and Boudh of Odisha] were added to the list of SRE Districts.
Significantly, on April 16, 2018, UMHA had stated that 126 Districts in 10 States were covered under the Ministry’s SRE Scheme. The Ministry noted that, over the past few years, a number of Districts had been carved into smaller Districts, as a result of which the geographical area of the 106 SRE Districts was redistributed over 126 Districts.
SRE is a non-plan scheme under implementation since April 1, 1996, to supplement the efforts of the States to deal with the LWE problem effectively [the SRE scheme also reimburses certain heads of security related expenditure in the North Eastern States and Jammu and Kashmir]. The total number of Districts covered under LWE SRE scheme in 1996 was 55 in nine States, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. According to the UMHA’s Annual Report 2004-05, 76 Districts in nine States (Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) were covered under the scheme. `
The Scheme was revised comprehensively in February 2005, increasing the rates of reimbursement from 50 per cent to 100 per cent and also covering a larger number of Districts as well as an expanded list of items for reimbursement. According to the revised scheme, the items eligible for reimbursement include:
- Ex-gratia payment to the family of a civilian/ Policeman killed;
- Provision for transportation, communication and other logistics support for Central Paramilitary Forces (CPFs) deployed in the State for anti-Naxalite operations including expenditure incurred on POL (Petrol, Oil and Lubricants) used by Joint Teams of State Police and the CPFs to undertake anti-Naxalite operations;
- Ammunition used by State Police Personnel in anti-Naxalite activities;
- Training to State Police Forces;
- Community policing by the local police;
- Lump sum grants to the Village Defence Committee / Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (Citizens’ Defence Committee) and honorarium to Special Police Officers (SPOs);
- Rehabilitation of hardcore, underground Naxalite surrenderees;
- Premium for insurance of police personnel engaged in anti-Naxalite operations. The revised scheme has raised the rate of reimbursement from 50% to 100% and also allows advance release of funds to the Naxalite-affected States.
In 2009, six Districts were added to the SRE scheme (Dhenkanal, Deogarh, Jajpur, Kandhamal and Nayagarh in Odisha; and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh) taking the number up to 82 Districts, with another one added later. Informing Parliament, the then Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Gurudas Kamat, stated in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament), on March 9, 2011,
On the basis of Naxalite violence profile, currently, 83 Districts in 9 Naxal affected States are included under Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme, which is meant for reimbursing the expenditure incurred by the States on anti-Naxal operations. Inclusion/exclusion of Districts under the SRE Scheme is a continuous process.
Another 20 Districts were added in 2012 [Muzaffarpur, Sheohar, Vaishali, Banka, Lakhisarai, Begusarai and Khagaria of Bihar; Dhamtari, Gariyabandh, Balod and Mahasamund of Chhattisgarh; Dumka, Deoghar and Pakur of Jharkhand; Aheri of Maharashtra and Kalahandi, Nuapada, Bargarh and Bolangir of Odisha; and Birbhum District in West Bengal], raising the total number covered under SRE to 103. Another three from Chhattisgarh (Sukma, Kondagaon and Balrampur) were added in 2013, taking the number up to 106 in nine States.
On June 2, 2014, with the creation of the Telangana State, the list was upgraded to 106 Districts in 10 States.
The criteria that MHA follows for inclusion of States under the SRE Scheme are;
- Existence of and activities by one or more of the organizations (which have been declared unlawful associations/terrorist organizations either under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act, 1967 or any other Act in the State).
- Enactment of legislation by a State to tackle activities of Naxal extremists or similar organizations.
- Raising of India Reserve Battalions (IRBs) by the concerned States for curbing the activities of the extremists.
- Inadequate development of affected area due to hindrances created by extremist activities.
The provision of budgets under the SRE Scheme is made according to the Annual Work Plan of the Scheme, finalized on the basis of proposals received from State Governments of LWE-affected States. MHA gives ‘in-principle’ approval to the Annual Work Plan of the LWE-affected States for the purpose of reimbursing the expenditure incurred by the State Governments on counter-LWE operations. However, the reimbursement of the State Governments’ claims under the Scheme is done on the basis of actual expenditure incurred in accordance with Scheme guidelines.
State-wise details of Funds released under SRE Scheme for LWE affected States 2010-18 (Figures in INR Lakhs)
*Telangana formed on June 2, 2014.
Note: Under the SRE Scheme for LWE affected States, expenditure incurred by the State Governments on counter-LWE operations, inter-alia, including expenditure incurred on rehabilitation of surrendered LWE cadres, are reimbursed as per the extant guidelines in this regard.
Significantly, a large number of LWE surrenders has been recorded over the past years. According to UMHA data, at least 685 Naxalites surrender through 2017 in addition to 1,442 surrenders in 2016. During the current year, as on May 15, 2018, the number of surrenders was 284. Since May 16, 2018, another 87 Naxalites have surrendered (data till September 16, 2018), according to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data.
On March 21, 2018, replying to a question in Lok Sabha, regarding the actual disbursement of funds under the SRE scheme, Minister of State (independent charge) for the Ministry of Planning and Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Rao Inderjit Singh, disclosed that the SRE Scheme disbursed INR 5.7522 billion between 2011-14; INR 6.7573 billion between 2014-17; and INR 4.45 billion in 2017-18, towards assistance to the LWE affected Districts for recurring expenditure relating to operational and training needs of SFs, including the expenditure incurred by the States for the rehabilitation of the surrendered LWE cadres etc. However, no specific number of beneficiaries list under the SRE scheme is available.
Surrender of Left-wing Extremists: 2005-2018* (MHA)
|No of Surrender||2131||1281||390||400||150||265||394||445||282||676||570||1442||685||284||9295|
Source: MHA; *Data till May 15, 2018
On April 29, 2018, the UMHA the first-time allowed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed for operations in LWE-affected areas, to directly utilise SRE Scheme funds for building infrastructure facilities for its troops. According to the order, a Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) is authorised to directly draw from the SRE funds for the creation of camps, barracks and other living facilities in its main operational theatres, after seeking approval from respective States to whom this money is made available by the Union Government.
In 2015, the total number of LWE-affected Districts was 106. It rose to 126 in 2017 following bifurcation of States and Districts, and the expansion of Maoists activities. Of the 106 Districts, 36 accounted for 80 to 90 per cent of the country-wide LWE violence, and were categorized as “Worst Affected Districts” in 2015. The UMHA on April 16, 2018, noted that 44 of the 126 Districts reported negligible violence and were removed from the list. Eight new Districts which registered significant Maoist activity were added to the SRE list. Currently, 30 of the worst affected Districts account for 90 per cent of LWE violence.
According to a statement by the UMHA on April 16, 2018,
Over the last four years, there has been a substantial improvement in the LWE scenario. Incidents of violence have seen a 20% decline with a 34% reduction in related deaths in 2017 as compared to 2013. The geographical spread of LWE violence also shrunk from 76 districts in 2013 to just 58 districts in 2017. Besides, just 30 of these districts account for 90% of the LWE violence in the country. At the same time certain new districts have emerged as the focus of expansion by the Left Wing Extremists.
The SRE scheme has helped in the fight against the Maoists. UMHA had, for instance, sanctioned the fortification/ upgradation of 400 Police Stations in 10 LWE affected States on June 2010, of which 393 of Police Stations have been completed, significantly enhancing both defensive and offensive capabilities of the local Police.
Deficiencies, nevertheless, persist. According to the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D), as on January 1, 2017, there were at least 126 Police Stations in Chhattisgarh, the worst Naxalism-affected State, which did not have a vehicle. Similarly, the second worst affected State, Jharkhand, had 23 such Police stations. The number of Police Stations without telephones in these two States was 23 and 64, respectively.
While the numbers of surrendered Maoists augments rapidly, implementation of the reward and rehabilitation scheme has tended to be tardy. In an interview, on September 4, 2017, Inspector General, anti-Naxal Operations, and Jharkhand Police Spokesperson Ashish Batra, disclosed that, due to technical delays, benefits under the surrender Policy do not reach intended beneficiaries:
Matter of giving reward money and other benefits to the surrendered Maoists is taken up individually and differs from case to case by a district level rehabilitation package committee headed by the Deputy Commissioners. After deciding the packages given to a surrendered Maoist, it makes a recommendation to the State Government which is given to them after a verification done by the Special Branch.
Separately, the fund released for modernizing State Police Forces (in 10 Maoist-affected States) under the Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF) scheme has declined considerably over the past four Financial Years (FY) from INR 6376.4 million in 2014-15; to INR 3147.8 million in 2015-16; INR 2020.1 million in 2016-17; and INR 1453 in 2017-18. LWE affected States covered under this program include Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
The Naxalites, are certainly losing influence across the country, but they remain a significant threat. Persisting deficits in governance and the potential for a revival of conflict need sustained attention. The SRE scheme is an attempt to supplement the efforts of the affected States to deal with the LWE menace, and its implementation has paid dividends. The scheme needs to be maintained even in regions that have been recovered from Maoist disruption, as the potential for future disorders is yet to be neutralized. The continuation of the scheme is, consequently, as necessary to contain the Maoist insurgency, as it is for stabilization and the comprehensive development of Maoist-affected areas.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management